The Cutest Wombat Bento Box by Pudding Pie Lane

I don’t watch TV much these days but I’m hooked on Top Chef. It showcases France’s up and coming professional chefs, as they battle it out in front of the daunting cameras – all sweat and tears to seduce the eyes and tastebuds of the discerning jury with their innovative dishes based on each set task. The jury? We’re talking Thierry Marx, Jean-François Piege, Ghislaine Arabian, and Christian Constant, s’il vous plaît. One of the surprising tasks last week was to come up with an artistic and healthily balanced bento box. The additional jury was even tougher this time: a group of sophisticated 8-year-old French children.

Bento boxes are something I only discovered recently by visiting Xinmei Wang’s blog, Pudding Pie Lane. If you don’t already know it, then I urge you to check it out. Xinmei’s creatively cute bento boxes are what first caught my eye, then I returned for more doses of her sense of humour. You get a glimpse into her life as a student while at Cambridge University. Yes, Xinmei is a clever cookie and in her spare time in between essay writing, she skillfully bakes and cooks up dishes not only on a limited budget but with the minimum of equipment, perfecting the art of getting by on a microwave. Let me hand you over to Xinmei.

Ever wondered how to be a food blogger as a student, meaning a very stretched budget? I like baking and everything I do is in my spare time (often procrastinating from writing my 10th essay of the term!) I study Economics at Cambridge so have never taken any courses related to baking or cooking, I’ve taught myself from various cookbooks, but occasionally like to make up my own recipes to ‘see what happens’. I especially love baking for my friends at Uni and more recently making bento boxes after I saw them on another site. Not only are they a (quite literally) healthy break from the cakes and cookies, but also look incredibly cute!

You may wonder how I manage to make this bento box in my tiny puny midget University kitchen (aka ‘gyp room’), with just a microwave, kettle and toaster. How did I cook the eggs? How did I boil the rice? And just how did I manage to make the wombat/bear/generic-furry-animal bento so astoundingly amazingly awesomely cute?

For the first two, that’s the Art Of Getting By On A Microwave. For the third one, well, that’s a secret 😉

At my University we’re all catered, so we have limited cooking means, and I’ve often had to make do. I don’t go to the hall to eat very often, however Harry Potteresque Cambridge University dining halls looks like (or should I say ‘however Cambridge-esque Harry Potter looks like!’). Maybe because we have to eat by candlelight at dinner every night. This may sound cool, but the novelty wears off when you’ve accidentally eaten sponge cake instead of chicken.

Not that I have ever done this. But anyway, I’m going to show you how you can make this bento in your very own box of a ‘gyp room’ so you can make one yourself!

You will need:

1. Rice! How to cook them in the microwave? Well:

  • Buy/borrow/find a pyrex bowl with a lid.
  • Put 1 cup of rice in it and rinse the rice. Soak with just over 1 cup of warm water for 15 minutes minimum (this is important!).
  • Microwave, with the lid on, on HIGH for 5 minutes.
  • Stir the rice around to get all the uncooked bits evenly distributed.
  • Do this two more times, or until the rice seems cooked when you stir it. It will depend on your microwave.

2. Eggs!

  • boil them in the kettle (see the bottom of this post). After it is boiled and cooked, separate the yolk from the white and mix it with the rice to colour it yellow. This makes said rice taste creamy and yummy.
  • You can even make scrambled eggs in the microwave by cracking them into a bowl, adding milk and seasonings, then microwaving in about 2 or 3 thirty second bursts (stirring between each one).
  • (I have, however, yet to figure out how to make eggs in the toaster.)

It’s a funny thing about eggs, because, well….

…please don’t judge me, but this one time, I went out to eat at a very posh restaurant where the menus have words like ‘mouli’ and ‘pousse café’. You see, one of the things was some chicken and ‘hen’s egg’ dish. And, seeing that, my thought process went something like this:

1)    Oooh! Hen’s egg! I’ve never had that before.

2)    I’m going to order it.

3)    That was very yummy.

4)    Wait a second.

5)    Hm.

6)    A hen’s egg is just an egg.

7)    Oops.

My friends have never let me forget that.
So moving swiftly on, here is a nice photo of the steps needed to make the wombat bento. You can put anything you like in the bento as extras, I have used random bits of veg, crabsticks, dumplings and pork fritters. You will also need:

  • Seaweed sushi nori for the eyes and mouth
  • Black sesame seeds for the eyelashes
  • Ham for the ears
  • A mushroom (I used a date instead, but you might find that a bit strange) for the nose
  • Ketchup for the cheeks

Et voila! You are done. I hope you like it!

Thanks so much, Xinmei. I think the Top Chef contestants could have done with checking out your bento box for their task last week, especially since one of the young jury members said she hoped to see a bento box with a cute bear’s head and none of them had this wombat beauty. The chefs could have also impressed the jury by telling them it was made with hens’ eggs! You know, I ate out in Paris last night (yes, hubby took me out after 7 months, bless him, so it was posh to shut me up) and the first item on the menu was…”oeuf de poule...” It cracked me up!

I say this is the cutest bento box but believe me, Xinmei has many more wonderful creations over at Pudding Pie Lane: check out her bento panda (‘Pandi’.) Please say hello from me and try not to make any hen jokes.

46 replies
  1. Choclette
    Choclette says:

    Xinmei is amazingly creative, but I hadn’t realised until reading this, that it was all done with only a microwave – fantastic. And I love wombats too.

  2. Becky
    Becky says:

    Your Bento Box Wombat is adorable, as well as healthy. Your are so creative with so so few resources, and humorous, too.

    Thanks for another great guest blogger.

  3. Ivy
    Ivy says:

    I’ve only recently learned what Bento boxes are from food bloggers. It takes a lot of talent to make such great looking food with minimal equipment.

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      I hear you, Ivy. I would have probably exploded the rice if it was me as a student. These days were dynamite so I stuck to reheated curries and not for the better. Long live bento boxes! Xinmei, you rock.

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Mine has just started high school too – and I can say I witnessed her hooping with delight on seeing Xinmei’s bento box. Unfortunately they have the canteen and we’re not allowed to give them packed lunches. Och, French schools…

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Aahh! Not that trailer… I’ve started recording it, just so I can miss the same first 7 minutes. Isn’t that terrible? Xinmei’s creations are terrific, aren’t they, Carol?

  4. Helene Dsouza I Masala Herb
    Helene Dsouza I Masala Herb says:

    I remember seeing bento boxes in the TV when I was a kid. I had asked my mum if she could make those, but then that was over her line in that time. They look adorable, and I would surely start a bento tradition for my future kids.

  5. Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen
    Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen says:

    Oh sooooo cute! I want all my lunches to look like this from now on – no boring sandwiches, even if they are hen’s egg 🙂 Jill, another lovely guest post. I am going to try get Top Chef on the internet – it sounds well worth watching. Have they attempted the ultimate challenge, to produce Macarons to exacting MAM standards and bring the same amount of creativity? Hx

  6. Kiri W.
    Kiri W. says:

    What a cool guest post!
    I love bento, and have ever since visiting Japan when I was 12. When I am not too lazy, my lunch at work is a bento box 🙂

  7. Nami | Just One Cookbook
    Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    I’ll be making bento everyday for my son starting next school year. I thought about just making sandwich but my son loves leftover Japanese food. I think I need to pack and re-form nicely into cute little bento. Any tips coming from you will be helpful Xinmei! Great to see you here on Jill’s blog! =) Thanks ladies!

  8. FreeSpiritEater
    FreeSpiritEater says:

    How exciting to see Xinmei guest posting with you Jill! I’m a huge fan of her site, every visit ends in ooo’s and awww’s. She’s fun, creative, artistic and a total sweetheart all around. So glad you were able to show case her talents here. So excited for you Xinmei, keep kicking butt, your blog is gorgeous! Kisses for you both! <3

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Couldn’t agree more and so happy that Xinmei could show her talents. Top Chef watch out! Now I’m dreaming of eating in a candlelit Harry Potter ambience, or rather – Xinmei audience.

    • Pudding Pie Lane
      Pudding Pie Lane says:

      Aw thanks, I’m glad you like it 🙂 I hope to carry on as much as possible because bentos are so much fun! Jill – one day you may even be dining in ‘Xinmei’s Bento Wonderland’ – opening in a city near you!



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